Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Plane Truth

I've spent a lot of time in planes these last few days. On Sunday I flew back from NYC with IMG, the princess, because she has no interest in flying as an unaccompanied minor. Because of a mechanical snafu, our nonstop flight was changed for a connecting-through-Atlanta routing. For an added bonus our LGA to ATL flight made an unscheduled stop to pick up some stranded passengers in Columbia, SC who were going to miss their international connections. After delivering Her Royal Highness to her daddy in JAX, I resubmitted myself to the scrutiny of airport security and picked up a connecting-through-Atlanta trip to Norfolk, VA. Today I had another pair of connecting-through-Atlanta flights when traveling from Norfolk to Charlotte, WV.

I understand that the need to economize has driven the airlines to downsize the planes, but I'm spending way too much time on the puddle jumpers these days. Today I suffered through 1 1/2 hours in a CRJ on my way to WV as my seatmate struggled to hold her 9 month old child on her already-quite-pregnant-again belly. The seats on the little planes barely accommodate one grown-up, much less a mother, child, and one on the way.

How much space is there per person on a plane like this? I found an awesome website that gives the whole poop on airplane seats. Check out SeatGuru.Com before you fly. Today I witnessed a pregnant mother with a lap child fully occupying the allotted 17.5" of width. In fact she was occupying some of my 17.5". On the little planes without first class cabins, there are no upgrades for frequent travelers. First class seat width measures 20.5" on a 737! I'm not a drinker so I don't go for the booze up front, and I really could skip the hot towels and the little meal they sometimes toss at us. But 3 inches of elbow room are perks that I have a hard time doing without.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Amazing Disgrace

I dressed in black and showed up in the church at the appointed time. I stood and sat when I was told. I listened to the words and tried to understand the symbolism in the message.

"Find comfort in the passing of a loved one, know The Truth, for she has a place in His house now."

Believe, I was told. Believe that He knows us and that He has a plan.

"We are hungry because there is food. We are thirsty because there is water. We breathe because there is air. Therefore we believe because He is real, because Heaven is real."

This is the logic intended to comfort a mourner? There has to be a better place because we believe it? Then why do the children of Niger yearn for food?

Maybe The Truth is that sometimes things just suck.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Aloha, Indeed

Today I learned of the death of a former student. She delighted me daily, as did her mother, a dependable, selfless volunteer at school, in spite of her failing health and struggles with limited mobility.

I'm no good at mourning, so I decided to send this letter to her folks.

Dear Bowers Family:
Little boys and girls grow up. This is something we elementary school teachers know, but the turmoil of twenty-plus kids in our daily care forces us to focus on the moment. We know that the little girl we teach today will become the young woman of tomorrow. She will move on, but sometimes she remains frozen in our minds as she was back when. Some students we think of often, wondering about the today of the joyful child from yesterday. Such are my memories of the precocious ‘tween Kiana.

Blessed with the chance to teach Kiana in her sixth grade year at Paterson, I witnessed the spirit of the young woman getting ready to burst onto the scene. She practically glowed with enthusiasm with every new adventure. As her Writing and English teacher, I was allowed a special peek at her aspirations. She wrote of joyful parties, endless sunshine, and her anticipated adventures in the car of her dreams, the VW Bug. She embraced our weekly “Show Don’t Tell” writing challenges, and each time came up with a clever story to capture the imagination of her classmates. Kiana recognized her own strengths, tackled her struggles, and generously gave of herself for others with a constant smile on her face. That reminds me a lot of her mom.

With today’s news I am stunned with shock and sense of loss. Kiana, at age twelve, was an energy field who lit up everyone around her. My one hundred and eighty days as her teacher were a gift. Thank you, Bowers family, for sharing her.

Judy Gould

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The love that might have been

It may not be obvious when checking the lax posting schedule on this blog, but my elife is too fast paced for me to look for a wifi hotspot and crank out the 6.5lb notebook. The Web has become such an integral part of my life, almost making up for the things that are getting harder and harder to remember. For example, the other day in the car, EJG and I were innocently crooning along to some vintage Stones. "OOh ooh ooh ooh ooh, o o o ooh, Ill come to your emotional rescue." Boy, that song brought us back. It reminded us of another Stones song of the same era. Another one with an extended round of oohs (were the guys too jacked up to think of real words?). In our minds, and as we hummed, we kept coming back to Emotional Rescue. Scratching the back of my brain, I pulled out another line, something about "Puerto Rican girls, dying to meet you," but we still came up short on the title. Arriving home, I entered "rolling stones puerto rican girls" into my Google homepage and in 0.09 seconds I was reviewing the lyrics to Miss You. 0.09 seconds and I had in front of me what 2 hours of brain squeezing couldn't deliver.

I also need PDA capabilities. My high tech life should be beyond sticky notes on the dashboard, in my wallet, or on my cell. The stickies remind me to add things to my high tech calendar the next time I have the thing powered up. Sure, I love the scheduling ease on Outlook, but what if the darned notebook is in its case? What was the address of that Holiday Inn I'm looking for? It's in the email, in my inbox. Pull over the rent-a-car along the Kennedy freeway, JSG, to power up the thing and wait in the Chicagoland traffic to boot and open the folder. Not the most efficient system.

Clearly I need an iPhone. That need drove me to visit the Apple store at the SJTC yesterday, where there was a not-so-friendly guy wearing the t-shirt and casual khaki uniform. He showed me the full demo, and then walked away to allow me some bonding time. With this shiny silver gem, the full capabilty of the internet, the ipod, and the PDA are available anywhere there's a cell phone signal. It's all I need and more. My wallet was throbbing with the anticipation of the big purchase, and my head was ignoring the fact that the mandatory AT&T phone service is redundant, since the family share plan we have with Verizon won't expire until October 2009. Nevermind the price. I had to have this, so I approached Unfriendly Apple Man to seal the deal. I asked him to show me how to access the GPS on this marvelous micromachine, and he laughed. Snickered, actually.

Sure, he can feel superior, because they have the sexiest toy on the market. But the mighty iPhone can't do what my 3 year old cell phone can. That is, get me turn-by-turn audio directions to the Detroit airport when I'm in the middle of a neighborhood in Livonia, Michigan. Or tell me the splits on my 7 mile run along the Black Creek Trail. Why doesn't it have GPS? When will GPS be coming? Smug Apple Man had no answers. He left me standing, wallet growing still and frugality regaining control, as he went on to sell half a dozen iPhones in the next 30 minutes.

Odd, though, that I'm experiencing a sense of loss for the life we might have had together.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Tata Nano

A $2,500 car is available for sale in India. Not much to look at, but it's $2,500, and it gets 50 MPG or better. It isn't spacious, but it's probably a little better than the manually-pulled rickshaw, or a crowded bus transporting chickens and commuters. ABC News bills this as a potential environmental nightmare. Problem is, millions of poor Indian families may be able to scrape together enough rupees to afford one of these babies. The environmental nightmare ensues when the have-nots can join the haves. You see, we don't need to come up with new, cleaner technologies for transportation. We can make our Sasquatch Carbon Footprint because the third world can't afford the polluting luxuries. The same reasoning keeps health insurance away from the poor. Allowing everyone to access the medical system would only make us have to wait longer. Good idea, isn't it? It's really kept health care costs in check.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I'm gonna burn out before November

Did her emotion help her in the primary? Is she a man or a woman? It's a damned shame that a strong, intelligent woman needs to get all girly and weepy for other women voters to step up and take a chance on her. There's finally a woman with the cojones and the experience to take on the task of digging this country out of the pit that the current administration has created. But that's not enough, we need to see her being emotional. Give me a f'in break.

Is she the best candidate? Not sure.

One thing I have learned, though, is that the president can make a difference in this country. Take a look at all of the signing statements used by the GWB administration, more than 750 in the first term. Among them were passes he granted himself on a range of laws including " military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research," according to a Boston Globe Report.

So yes, we should pay attention to this race. Inspect these candidates. "Look inside their mouths."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Yooper am I

Thank goodness for free wifi in the Sawyer "International" airport. I can occupy my time while I await a flight out of Marquette, MI to Detroit, where I change for another puddle-jumper to Saginaw, MI. My flight is supposed to depart from gate 1, which is, incidentally, the only gate.

For those who aren't in the know, Marquette is in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Marquette, a town some 90 miles from the school where I presented today, is currently sitting in the middle of a cloud. The fog is so dense that I couldn't see the building when I parked in the rental car return spot number one of ten, a spot less than 10 yards from the building. There's quite a chance that I won't depart at all, as we await the lifting of the fog in order to have the plane making up this flight to take off from its current gate in Minneapolis. If the skies don't open soon, the plane in Minneapolis becomes irrelevant as I'll miss my connection to Saginaw. Why not drive to Saginaw, JSG? Isn't it in Michigan? Can it be far? How about 350 miles-far. Besides, none of the car rental companies have any availability, and if I keep the car I had it will cost me an extra $400 plus a $1,000 drop fee. Then just leave tomorrow, JSG. Nope, they've cancelled so many outbound flights here recently that the next guaranteed seat for me would be Thursday.

Yep, I was "had" on this one. When the onsite training was proposed as an easy one to pick up before the 3 day seminar run this week, "Check it out, you're going to be in Michigan anyway," I didn't check up on it myself. Technically this Upper Peninsula is part of Michigan, but geographically closer to Northern Minnesota, and it's in another time zone!

The iced over lakes, the white birch trees, the virgin wilderness, it's really beautiful up here. The folks of the UP, Yoopers, as they call themselves, are a spirited group. Secession from the Lower Peninsula has been brought up here more than once. They call the LP folks "trolls" because they live Unda Da Bridge, as in the Three Billygoats Gruff. The Mackinac bridge connects the 2 peninsulas. The influences of Eurpoean immigrants and Canadian brethren prevail throughout their language and culture, eh? Schools close 2 days for "Deer Hunting Day." The teachers today proudly told me that orange hunting vests and flannel make year-round wardrobes complete. Today I ate a pasty (no, it's not Janet Jackson's bra by default), a delicious knish-like walking meal.
It's a good thing I like it up here. I might be staying a while.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Big Girls Don't Cry

Even after Dove Soap's year-long campaign for body acceptance, results of a poll of 1,000 women on dieting and fitness revealed:

Favorite diet: Slim Fast

1 in 4 women would spend a week in jail to reach her ideal weight

22% would shave their head

21% would trade 10 years of life

76% say they'd rather be known as a "Friendly Chubby Girl" than a "Skinny Witch"

As an "FCG", I know what this all really means:

25% of women think that FCGs should be jailed

22% think we look as odd as bald women

21% would take us out 10 years before our time

24% of them haven't met me when I'm pissed

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Sweatin' on the Bayou

Working out on the road is a challenge, even with the newly-resolved-best of intentions. When things are good, the hotel has one or two functioning pieces of cardio equipment in the boiler room turned fitness center. I burrow myself into whatever hole they place the machine, focus on the iPod or Friends reruns on TBS, and try to slog through an hour on the dreadmill. Damn, though, it's slower and harder when stuck in a hole and running nowhere at all.

Today was a travel day for me, and I landed early at Louis Armstrong (N'Awlins) airport. With only an hour drive to the town of tomorrow's training, I anticipated a good workout and some catching up on work/blogging in the afternoon. The "Best" Western has no fitness room, and it's too cold to run outside, so I decided to engage my GPS enabled Razr to spot the nearest YMCA. my First Coast Y membership entitles me to use any location in the nation, and today's circumstances seemed like the right opportunity to take advantage of that offer.

The nearest location is the Bayouland YMCA, some 12 miles from the hotel. The free offer was good, and I was ushered right into the fitness area. The place was 1970's and it wasn't retro. I found the one treadmill that was built in this millennium and tuned into a podcast to occupy my mind for the 60 minutes I'd planned to stay. Dripping and bored, I stepped off at the end of the hour, fully intending to complete my workout. I had the whole afternoon, so I could pick up my strength training routine.

I had the best of intentions, but the combination of the Jack LaLanne machines (did they buy the surplus when his show was cancelled in the 1960s?) and the prevalent odor, a cross between vomit and poopy diaper, had me heading for the door after a few lifts in the shaky, rusty Roman chair.

Striving toward my fitness goals is so much easier when I am home! Not only are we in NoFl blessed with a climate suited to outdoor living, but the pristine, modern facilities offered at local gyms and YMCAs actually lift my spirits. Our YMCA on The Island opened only 3 years ago, but it has undergone an expansion, and last month, a renovation. The new equipment, the natural light, the perky and helpful staff, they all make me feel like I want to stay around and get my fitness fix for the day. It’s a long way from Bayouland, that’s for sure.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A New Year's Present to Me from Me

I guess I must travel too much, but I became moist and nearly teary-eyed when I spied this bag at the new luggage store at SJTC today. Strolling the mall before I headed to the airport for the first trip of the year, I thought I owed myself a present.

Among its many features:
Four section design organizes your accessories, laptop, files and tech gear.
• SpeedThru™ pocket for hassle-free airport security checks
The computer part pulls right out!

• Dual purpose back pocket allows bag to slide over the Outsider® handle for fast, convenient travel
It fits right over the handle on my four wheelie roller!

• Four section design: (a) organizer (b) computer (c) fan file (d) ultimate tech sections
Aren't you getting moist too?

• TechGuard™ computer pocket with dual-density foam base and fleece lining
My laptop gets its own fuzzy slippers!

• Computer pocket zips-out for extra packing space
I can shove even more in there!

• Fan file section fits letter and legal size folders
Expense accounts, journals, running logs...

• Computer sleeve fits all 17" laptop screens
Why I bought a 17", I'll never know, but it fits!